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My Book Reviews

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Note: There are books listed here whose views I do not endorse. I try to break beyond my bubble and understand others. If you’re interested in my current beliefs, feel free to email me.

★★★ review 2024-04-07 The MANIAC :: Benjamin Labatut
★★★★ review 2024-03-24 The Midnight Library :: Matt Haig
★★ review 2024-03-22 Birnam Wood :: Eleanor Catton
★★★★ review 2024-03-19 The Night Circus :: Erin Morgenstein
★★ review 2024-03-18 Nine Princes in Amber :: Roger Zelazny
review 2024-03-12 Little, Big :: John Crowley
★★★ review 2024-03-11 A Soil Owner’s Manual :: Jon Stika
★★★★ review 2024-03-10 The Dispossessed :: Ursula K. Le Guin
★★ review 2024-03-07 Book Thief :: Markus Zusak
★★★ review 2024-03-05 Paved Paradise :: Henry Grabar
★★ review 2024-03-03 Revolver: Sam Colt and the Six-Shooter That Changed America :: Jim Rasenberger, Jacques Roy, et al.
★★ review 2024-02-29 What Do You Care What Other People Think? :: Richard P. Feynman
★★★ review 2024-02-29 Genius at Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway :: Siobhan Roberts
★★★★★ review 2024-02-25 The World According to Garp :: John Irving
★★★★★ review 2024-02-20 Educated :: Tara Westover
★★ review 2024-02-18 The Upcycle :: William McDonough and Michael Braungart
★★ review 2024-02-17 From Here to Eternity :: Caitlin Doughty
review 2024-02-17 Among Others :: Jo Walton
★★★ review 2024-02-09 Faster :: James Gleick
★★★★ review 2024-02-05 Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! :: Richard Feynman
★★★ review 2024-02-01 How to be Alone :: Jonathen Franzen
★★★ review 2024-01-29 Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself :: David Lipsky
★★ review 2024-01-29 Bringing Nature Home :: Douglas W. Tallamy
★★★ review 2024-01-27 Salvation :: Peter F. Hamilton
review 2024-01-25 So Long, See You Tomorrow :: William Maxwell
★★★★ review 2024-01-22 Chronicle of a Death Foretold :: Gabriel García Márquez
★★★ review 2024-01-20 The Information :: James Gleick
★★★★ review 2024-01-16 Cradle to Cradle :: William McDonough and Michael Braungart
★★★ review 2024-01-13 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich :: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
★★ review 2024-01-13 No Such Thing as Bad Weather :: Linda Åkeson McGurk
★★★★ review 2024-01-13 Hunt, Gather, Parent :: Michaeleen Doucleff
★★ review 2024-01-10 The Joy of X :: Steven Strogatz
★★ review 2024-01-08 Rainbow’s End :: Vernor Vinge
★★★★ review 2024-01-06 The Hour of the Star :: Clarice Lispector
★★★★★ review 2024-01-03 The Library at Mt. Char :: Scott Hawkins
★★ review 2023-12-31 Breakfast at Tiffany’s :: Truman Capote
★★★★ review 2023-12-30 Working :: Robert A. Caro
★★ review 2023-12-30 Moll Flanders :: Daniel Dafoe
★★ review 2023-12-28 The Gift of Therapy :: Irvin Yalom
★★★★★ review 2023-12-27 Of Mice and Men :: John Steinbeck
★★★★ review 2023-12-26 Kitchen :: Banana Yoshimoto
★★★★ review 2023-12-24 We Have Always Lived In The Castle :: Shirley Jackson
★★★ review 2023-12-21 Radical Acceptance :: Tara Brach
★★ review 2023-12-19 Turn of the Screw :: Henry James
★★★★ review 2023-12-12 Train Dreams :: Denis Johnson
★★★★★ review 2023-12-09 White Teeth :: Zadie Smith
★★★ review 2023-11-26 The Trial :: Franz Kafka
★★ review 2023-11-25 Lucky Jim :: Kingsley Amis
review 2023-11-25 High Rise :: J.G. Ballard
★★★ review 2023-11-25 Things Fall Apart :: Chinua Achebe
★★★★ review 2023-11-23 How to Win Friends and Influence People :: Dale Carnegie
★★★ review 2023-11-10 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell :: Susanna Clarke
★★★★ review 2023-11-07 Piranesi :: Susanna Clarke
★★★★ review 2023-10-26 All The Birds In The Sky :: Charlie Jane Anders
★★★★ review 2023-10-23 No One Is Talking About This :: Patricia Lockwood
★★★★★ review 2023-10-20 East of Eden :: John Steinbeck
★★★ review 2023-10-12 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions :: Thomas S. Kuhn
★★ review 2023-10-10 The Body :: Bill Bryson
★★★★ review 2023-10-03 Storm Front :: Jim Butcher
★★★★★ review 2023-10-01 Men, Machines, and Modern Times :: Elting E. Morison
★★★ review 2023-09-16 Breath :: James Nestor
★★ review 2023-09-18 The Nature of Oaks :: Douglas W. Tallamy
★★ review 2023-09-18 Writing Down the Bones :: Natalie Goldberg
★★ review 2023-09-19 The Moon is a Harsh Mistress :: Robert A. Heinlein
★★★★★ review 2023-09-20 The Timeless Way of Building :: Christopher Alexander
★★★ review 2023-09-25 Accelerando :: Charles Stross
★★★ review 2023-09-28 Permutation City :: Greg Egan
★★★ review 2023-09-29 On Having No Head :: Douglas Edison Harding
★★★★ review 2023-09-15 When Things Fall Apart :: Pema Chödrön
★★★ review 2023-09-14 A Walk in the Woods :: Bill Bryson
★★★ review 2023-09-12 Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents :: Lindsay Gibson
review 2023-09-11 If You Could See The Sun :: Ann Liang
★★ review 2023-09-10 Extra Virginity :: Tom Mueller
★★★★★ review 2023-09-09 Player Piano :: Kurt Vonnegut
★★★★ review 2023-09-05 Restoration Agriculture :: Mark Shepard
★★★ review 2023-09-04 No Logo :: Naomi Klein
★★ review 2023-09-02 The Shadow of What Was Lost :: James Islington
★★ review 2023-09-01 Orbiting the Giant Hairball :: Gordon MacKenzie
★★ review 2023-08-23 So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed :: Jon Ronson
★★★ review 2023-08-22 The Left Hand of Darkness :: Ursula K. Le Guin
★★★★★ review 2023-08-21 The Omnivore’s Dilemma :: Michael Pollan
★★★★ review 2023-08-18 The Design of Everyday Things :: Don Norman
★★★★ review 2023-08-12 The Inner Game of Tennis :: W. Timothy Gallwey
review 2023-08-09 Triumph of Seeds :: Thor Hanson
★★ review 2023-08-08 Bird by Bird :: Anne Lamott
★★★★★ review 2023-08-08 The Diamond Age :: Neal Stephenson
★★ review 2023-08-02 Zen in the Art of Writing :: Ray Bradbury
review 2023-08-01 How to Read Nonfiction Like a Professor :: Thomas C. Foster
★★★ review 2023-07-29 Last Argument of Kings :: Joe Abercrombie
★★ review 2023-07-24 Before They Are Hanged :: Joe Abercrombie
★★★ review 2023-07-23 The Blade Itself :: Joe Abercrombie
review 2023-07-21 Company of One :: Paul Jarvis
★★ review 2023-07-21 Fair Play :: Eve Rodsky
★★ review 2023-07-19 Station Eleven :: Emily St. John Mandel
★★★ review 2023-07-17 We Are Never Meeting in Real Life :: Samantha Irby
★★★★ review 2023-07-15 Story of Your Life and Others :: Ted Chiang
★★ review 2023-07-11 Kafka on the Shore :: Haruki Murakami
★★★★ review 2023-06-29 A Man Called Ove :: Fredrik Backman
★★★★ review 2023-06-25 Paper Menagerie :: Ken Liu
review 2023-06-11 White Noise :: Don DeLillo
★★★★★ review 2023-06-09 The Grapes of Wrath :: John Steinbeck
★★★★ review 2023-06-08 A Swim in a Pond in the Rain :: George Saunders
★★ review 2023-05-25 The Black Prism :: Brent Weeks
★★ review 2023-05-22 Lucifer’s Hammer :: Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
★★★ review 2023-05-17 This Is How You Lose the Time War :: Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
★★★★ review 2023-05-15 The Rosie Project :: Graeme Simsion
★★★★ review 2023-05-13 The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared :: Jonas Jonasson
★★★★★ review 2023-05-11 Breakfast of Champions :: Kurt Vonnegut
★★★★ review 2023-05-10 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy :: Douglas Adams
★★★ review 2023-05-09 Baby-Led Feeding :: Jenna Helwig
★★ review 2023-05-09 Tell Me No Lies :: Bader, Pearson, Schwartz
★★★★ review 2023-05-09 Atlas of the Heart :: Brené Brown
★★★★★ review 2023-05-01 Exhalation: Stories :: Ted Chiang
★★★★ review 2023-04-26 The One-Straw Revolution :: Masanobu Fukuoka
★★★★★ review 2023-04-05 How We Got To Now :: Steven Johnson
★★★ review 2023-04-03 The Walking Man :: Jiro Taniguchi
★★ review 2023-04-03 The Wintringham Mystery :: Anthony Berkeley
★★★★★ review 2023-04-01 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow :: Gabrielle Zevin
★★★★★ review 2023-03-27 A Confederacy of Dunces :: John Kennedy Toole
★★ review 2023-03-26 Bridget Jones’s Diary :: Helen Fielding
★★ review 2023-03-23 Promise of Blood :: Brian McClellan
★★★★★ review 2023-03-16 Anything You Want :: Derek Sivers
★★ review 2023-03-12 Learned Optimism :: Martin E. P. Seligman
★★ review 2023-03-12 To Say Nothing of the Dog :: Connie Willis
★★★ review 2023-03-07 Get In Trouble :: Kelly Link
★★★ review 2023-03-02 Slade House :: David Mitchell
★★★ review 2023-03-02 The Bell Jar :: Sylvia Plath
★★ review 2023-02-22 The Fall of Hyperion :: Dan Simmons
★★★★★ review 2023-02-13 The Anthropocene Reviewed :: John Green
★★★ review 2023-02-13 Me Talk Pretty One Day :: David Sedaris
★★★ review 2023-02-09 Zero to One :: Peter Thiel
★★★ review 2023-02-05 Artemis :: Andy Weir
★★★★ review 2023-02-02 Hyperion :: Dan Simmons
★★★ review 2023-01-27 The War of Art :: Steven Pressfield
★★★★ review 2023-01-26 God’s Debris :: Scott Adams
★★★★ review 2023-01-24 Interview with the Vampire :: Anne Rice
★★★★★ review 2023-01-21 Norwegian Wood :: Haruki Murakami
★★★★ review 2023-01-18 The Way of Kings :: Brandon Sanderson
★★★★★ review 2022-12-25 The Handmaid’s Tale :: Margaret Atwood
★★★★ review 2022-12-19 Animal Farm :: George Orwell
★★★★ review 2022-12-04 The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1) :: Terry Pratchett
★★★★ review 2022-11-27 The Remains of the Day :: Kazuo Ishiguro
★★★ review 2022-11-19 The Stranger :: Albert Camus
★★★★★ review 2022-11-13 Metamorphosis :: Franz Kafka
★★ review 2022-10-30 Discipline is Destiny :: Ryan Holiday
★★★★ review 2022-10-16 Ubik :: Phillip K. Dick
★★★★ review 2022-10-09 Triggers :: Marshall Goldsmith
★★★ review 2022-10-02 Book of the New Sun :: Gene Wolf
★★★★ review 2022-09-02 Solaris :: Stanislaw Lem
★★★★★ review 2022-08-18 The Good Earth :: Pearl S. Buck

The MANIAC

A one-of-a-kind book. Felt like a (1) BBC radio drama covering (2) the mad scientists of WWII with a (3) brilliant throughline to today.

The Midnight Library

Reminded me of Mitch Albom, Groundhog Day, and maybe Black Mirror… in a good way.

Birnam Wood

The author is skilled at writing believable Sorkin-esque monologues from a ton of different political perspectives. She’s also got a talent for setting up a house of cards and knocking it down with style. But I don’t know – I didn’t enjoy the story.

The Night Circus

Captivating plot, likable characters, cool magic, fantastic imagery. It’s surprising that Hollywood hasn’t made an adaptation yet.

Nine Princes in Amber

Begins as a nifty amnesiac action-thriller and then slowly morphs into typical renfair male fantasy.

Little, Big

Extraordinary modern fairy tale with lovely prose. A one-of-a-kind book. Also somewhat boring.

A Soil Owner’s Manual

Neat little book about soil health.

The Dispossessed

Marvelous storytelling and worthwhile thought-experiments for anarchist/communist/capitalist sympathizers.

The Book Thief

The author is clearly very talented, but this story was underwhelming. Reads like the worst kind of high-school-English-required-reading.

Paved Paradise

The author makes a surprisingly bipartisan case against parking. He summarizes his recommendations as follows:

The path forward from a policy perspective seemed clear. Abolish parking minimums and let developers build the amount of parking their clients want. Break garage rents apart from apartment rents so carless tenants don’t have to subsidize their neighbors driving. Recognize that more parking means less housing, especially affordable housing. Let different uses – an office and an apartment building, a school and a movie theater – share parking. Charge for the best street parking, and use parking prices and enforcement not to generate cash and cycles of punishment but to manage city streets. Invest the proceeds in the neighborhood. Let architects design environments where people can walk. Ask drivers to bear some of the externalities of automobile use.

Revolver: Sam Colt and the Six-Shooter That Changed America

I read this book for specific research purposes. I commend the authors for striking a nice balance between entertainment and historical neutrality.

What Do You Care What Other People Think?

Surely your publishers want bonus content, Mr. Feynman!

Genius at Play

I hate reading biographies, but this one was alright. Conway was a character!

The World According to Garp

A book seemingly about death & male feminism, and also the act of writing about death & male feminism. This book started out very funny and then slowly became an artistic chore (in a good way, I guess). A sometimes-annoying-but-admittedly-brilliant work of metafiction.

Educated

It’s like Little House on the Prairie, but with graphic abuse and trauma. I wish it wasn’t a true story. Sharp words; lasting scars. Unforgettable strength.

The Upcycle

Cradle to Cradle errata and bonus content.

From Here to Eternity

Enlightening survey of problems in the funeral industry, with plenty of good comparisons to historical/worldwide customs. Corpses are not to be feared.

Among Others

Insufferable mix of revisionist-history-memoir, magical realism, and misunderstood bookworm heroine. I know it received great reviews, but I just didn’t understand the hype.

Faster

Standard Gleick deep-dive into human-scale time/speed. Lots of good insights on efficiency and “average” time.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Classic rascal tales!

How to be Alone

Smart essays for smart people. Not for me.

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

It’s a transcript of a very intimate David Foster Wallace interview, where David Lipsky spends lots of time with Wallace during the final leg of his ascent to infamy. I can’t imagine anybody doing as good of a job as Lipsky here; he really knew when to let David talk, and how to highlight the scenery without letting it steal focus from the main show.

It was uncanny to hear DFW voice so many of my own sticky/ineffable anxieties about addiction, fame, media, intelligence, etc. His ability to point at those difficult-to-articulate feelings is probably why he is considered one of the greats.

Bringing Nature Home

Dry book about plant diversity. Would be nice as a 90-minute lecture, but a grueling experience in book form.

Salvation

Starts out as world-class sci-fi and then devolves into cliché. Personally, this book smelled like an incredibly talented author let down by a lack of support from their editor.

So Long, See You Tomorrow

I was completely unsure how to feel about this short work. Such moving storytelling, but at the same time, I felt so distant.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Charming story about a rube-goldberg machine drama in a tiny town.

The Information

A history of information theory for the layman. Lots of good tidbits.

Cradle to Cradle

A refreshingly holistic approach to sustainability! Solid foundations on real-world chemistry. Although pretentious in many parts, the authors have receipts to back up their bold opinions.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Expertly crafted book about a very not fun day at the Russian labor camp. While historically significant and well-written, it was hard for me to relate to any of it.

No Such Thing as Bad Weather

Lots of gems, but much too wordy. Children play. Outside good. Cold okay. Scandinavia much advanced.

Hunt, Gather, Parent

A fantastic piece of journalism; full of bold, testable, and convincing claims. This book has already made an impact on how I’m choosing to parent my daughter.

The Joy of X

Nifty little chapterized overview of mathematics. Lots of fun examples and “greatest hits”.

Rainbow’s End

Lots of neat futurism ideas with a plot stapled to it.

The Hour of the Star

It defies explanation. Just the right amount of crazy – hardtack biscuits with chocolate chips.

The Library at Mt. Char

Intricate fantasy/sci-fi/horror with great insights into power/god/evil/parenting.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Fun/sad little story with lots to love.

Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing

After listening to Conan O’Brien gush over Robert Caro on a design podcast, my curiosity was piqued. After reading this essay collection, I’m now fully convinced that Caro is a national treasure.

Moll Flanders

This book reads like 17th century Domestic Girlfriend. The first half of the book has plenty of juicy twists, but the plot becomes repetetive very quickly.

Moll Flanders was likely progressive for its time, but its attempt at feminism has dated poorly.

The Gift of Therapy

Solid collection of advice/notes from a career therapist.

Of Mice and Men

Tell me about the rabbits!

Kitchen

Excellent insights on the grieving process, i.e. good grief!

We Have Always Lived In The Castle

Sometimes slow and annoying, but overall very clever. The story overflows with crucial details that are easy to overlook.

Radical Acceptance

Solid spiritual advice with good storytelling.

Turn of the Screw

Lackluster gothic horror with plenty of mystery but no fright or feeling.

Train Dreams

Phrenetic, short, and somber.

White Teeth

Well, the Zadie Smith hype is justified. White Teeth is excellent. Solid dialogue. Integrates multiple cultures into one narrative without obvious tokenism. Everything feels extremely intentional (in a good way). Slow beginning, but worthwhile payoffs.

The Trial

A scattered plot with decent depth but generally dislikable characters. Funny at many parts, but no stakes provided.

Lucky Jim

A book whose sole purpose seems to tarnish academia. Somewhat funny, but felt hollow and unconstructive.

High Rise

An almost-interesting story premise embedded in shallow writing.

Things Fall Apart

Solid fiction about tribal Africa. I liked most when underlying motivations for cultural practices were hinted at or explored.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

All the advice about human interaction that you should’ve learned (but didn’t) and need to be reminded of (but don’t).

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

An enthralling and epic story, although sometimes a bit too British for my small brain. I suspect this book would actually be much better as a television series.

Piranesi

A beautiful and unique labyrinth story.

All the Birds in the Sky

Heartwarming apocalyptic story about love, nature, magic, technology, growing up, generational trauma, etc. Some of the romance felt forced. Wouldn’t be surprised to see it on the silver screen one day.

No One Is Talking About This

This book was painful. Normally books about internet addiction don’t feel applicable to me because I never got sucked into Facebook or Twitter.

But this book felt like a personal attack. The author created a creepy caricature of the habits and values I once espoused. And her takes were completely reasonable.

I am impressed with how the author painted her political counterparts in a reasonable light. The US’s alt-left and alt-right seem to be equal products of meme culture.

I didn’t care much for the plot. There were quite a few things that felt forced, but they were easy to ignore amidst the excellent writing. All the story beats are relatively predictable, but it doesn’t lessen the blow.

East of Eden

Deeply human. Possibly the greatest book ever written.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Dry but incredibly deep work on how paradigm shifts work in the academic/scientific community.

The Body

Excellent writing (as usual) from Bryson, but content felt both too broad and too narrow at the same time. Recommended for middle-school students and adults unfamiliar with human biology.

Storm Front

My new favorite soft-magic fantasy world… embedded in a horny detective thriller. Imagine if Harry Potter was actually a relatively good story; instead of a student, he was a detective trapped in a softcore smut novel. The story would’ve been a masterpiece if the author swapped the ecchi stuff with some actual character development.

Men, Machines, and Modern Times

The definitive essay collection covering technology/innovation/society. Filled with lovely prose, accurate prophecies, great examples, and useful mental models.

On Having No Head

Entertaining booklet on the difference between your head and other people’s heads. Great companion to any meditation or spiritual practice.

Permutation City

Reads like a “consciousness and computers are cool” story written by an engineer. A few incredible ideas padded by weak storytelling and philosophical exposition. Probably would’ve been better as a short story.

Accelerando

Probably the definitive sci-fi on post-human acceleration possibilities.

The Timeless Way of Building

This book provides a wonderful fractal-like framework for thinking about design. Its focus on objective/falsifiable “patterns” is surprisingly pragmatic. The book is filled with delightful writing and great examples.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistres

Reads like “classic” sci-fi. Explores cool ideas on superintelligence and human organization structures.

Writing Down the Bones

Reflections on zen and writing. Very personable, but didn’t feel applicable to me.

The Nature of Oaks

More than you ever wanted to know about oak trees. Excellent demonstration of complex and fragile ecosystem interdependencies.

Breath

This book had lots of bold claims worth investigating.

When Things Fall Apart

Her essays feel like an incredible mix of Alan Watts and Brené Brown. This stuff is life-changing. I’m in love!

A Walk in the Woods

An imperfect-yet-hilarious account of an ambitious hike up the Appalachian Trail. Besides being charming and incredibly well-written, the ecological tangents hit super hard. Species of all kinds are going extinct at unfathomable rates. I’ve heard the stats before and was unmoved, but his anecdotes somehow seared Nature’s impending peril into my arteries.

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents

This book should be required reading for anybody with strained family relations. Although not very dense or academic, there are tons of gems to be found.

If You Could See The Sun

Interesting premise for young-adult-gets-superpower book, but with a cringey execution.

Extra Virginity

And suddenly I’m an olive oil snob.

Player Piano

It’s not Vonnegut’s funniest nor best-written work, but it’s a parable of technology/automation that will have a lasting impact on me.

Restoration Agriculture

One of the most practical takes on permaculture, but somehow integrates a long-view of how biomes develop on Earth. Very convincing arguments for switching to perennial-oriented farming. Strong and reasonable opinions that I haven’t heard via other permaculture channels.

Thorough dissection of corporations, branding, and activism.

The Shadow of What Was Lost

Unoriginal young adult “chosen one” power fantasy with cool takes on time and fate.

Orbiting the Giant Hairball

Whimsical take on corporate creativity. Seems useful for people trapped in certain types of large organizations.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

A well-written book on a topic I care surprisingly little about.

The Left Hand of Darkness

Solid science fiction with awesome spiritual insight.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

A rare non-fiction masterpiece. Pollan asks and answers all the right questions about humanity’s relationship with food.

The Design of Everyday Things

The definitive guide to design – a must-read for all makers and managers.

The Inner Game of Tennis

A strange but wonderful book that teaches how to teach/learn through meditation-like techniques.

Triumph of Seeds

Seed biology is a super cool topic, but the author’s writing style irked me.

Bird by Bird

Solid writing advice and potentially good memoir smashed into a mediocre package.

The Diamond Age

An incredible exploration of nanotech, education, global borders & ethnic groups, and intuition. Some character arcs were a tad disappointing, but that can be forgiven in the sheer volume of ideas put to paper.

Zen in the Art of Writing

A “zesty” book that is both a disappointing memoir and unhelpful writing guide.

How to Read Nonfiction Like a Professor

Insufferable drivel.

The First Law Trilogy

An unremarkable young-adult fantasy series with a bold ending that somehow captured my attention.

Company of One

I struggled to find anything interesting or actionable from this book. I’d suggest reading Derek Sivers’s Anything You Want instead, which delivers many of the same opinions in a potent dose.

Fair Play

Fair Play is a manifesto and guide for balancing domestic labor. I think it made a lot of good points, and I can imagine its clever card game/exercise being a useful tool for couples. I’d recommend this book to couples straining to fairly distribute work. I suspect that clear division of responsibilities with moderate time-tracking would be a great move for all households.

Station Eleven

Well-written book with a premise that didn’t hook me.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

Funny/sad essays about health and money and maturity and love.

Story of Your Life and Others

Another incredible collection of sci-fi shorts by Ted Chiang.

Kafka on the Shore

I totally get that this book is subtle and clever, but sorry, it didn’t really make feel anything. And the sheer volume of media references made me feel like I was reading Ready Player One for self-aggrandized Mensa members.

The 19-year-old-philosophy-student-sex-scene from Kafka on the Shore embodies much of Murakami: pretentious, captivating, and horny.

A Man Called Ove

Heart-warming dark comedy about a grumpy old man who wants to die.

Paper Menagerie

Great short story collection exploring China, technology, and the power of words.

White Noise

This book produces a cool metanarrative about finding meaning amongst noise. It also made me chuckle in quite a few parts. I really liked the characterization of the main couple; despite its humorous takes, I think the story displays a lot of elements of a realistic healthy relationship. I only read one third of this book, because I’m a bit burnt out on modern/postmodern literature right now. It seems worth another try at some point in the future though.

The Grapes of Wrath

This book is a passionate exploration of United States’ culture. It brilliantly covers capitalism, hunger, determination, distance, inequality, crime, family, and xenophobia. I also loved the poetic flourishes littered throughout the story. The world would probably be a kinder place if everybody read this book.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain

A collection of engaging short stories with helpful analyses and writing advice.

The audiobook is read by an incredible cast: George Saunders, Phylicia Rashad, Nick Offerman, Glenn Close, Keith David, Rainn Wilson, BD Wong, and Renée Elise Goldsberry

The Black Prism

Decent fantasy story with a compelling hard magic system based on the light spectrum.

Lucifer’s Hammer

An extraordinary number of people hope for the world to end in their lifetimes.

This Is How You Lose the Time War

Borderline pretentious but short, beautiful, and entertaining.

The Rosie Project

Delightful romance story from the perspective of an autistic man.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

An irreverent Forrest Gump story. Incredible comedic payoffs. Required reading for rascals.

Breakfast of Champions

A wacky book about crazy people for crazy people by crazy people. It’s Vonnegut’s incisive alien wit at its best.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Classic, clever comedy.

Baby-Led Feeding

This book details how and why to transition babies to solids early. It provides helpful guidance on safety and nutrition. The book comprises mostly simple recipes that seem tasty enough for adults and babies to share.

Tell Me No Lies

Wading through pages of filler to find a few worthwhile gems about lies in relationships. Sam Harris’s short treatise on lying is a more potent and practical read.

Atlas of the Heart

An engaging encyclopedia of emotions.

Exhalation: Stories

A provocative short story collection about humans and technology. Each story will leave a lasting impact on how I see the world. Highly, highly recommended.

The One-Straw Revolution

Human hubris knows no bounds. This book spurns modernity. It’s a charming case against science, technology, and progress. The pursuit of comfort makes life untenable.

How We Got To Now

This book is the best kinds of entertaining and informative. Six threads of technological history demonstrate the interconnectedness of ideas. It’s a refreshing take on inevitable innovation.

The Walking Man

Short manga stories about the experience of living. Breathtaking artwork in some parts. Inspired me to get drenched and walk barefoot more often.

The Wintringham Mystery

Clever mystery, but ultimately soulless.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Deep and emotional and insightful. A love letter to love in the language of game design. This book oozes “millennial”, and that’s a surprisingly good thing. It feels like classic literature written yesterday.

A Confederacy of Dunces

Nutty Professor meets Don Quixote meets Infinite Jest. A literary landmark ahead of its time.

Bridget Jones’s Diary

An endearing read about the difficulties of young adult life and womanhood in the modern era. Contains great tongue-in-cheek commentaries on health, feminism, egotism, and addiction.

Promise of Blood

It’s a charming adventure/fantasy story with good characters and cool magic – nothing revolutionary.

Anything You Want

I adore this short book. Anything You Want celebrates simplicity and sincerity. It reads like a guide to entrepeneurship for Taoists. I’ve read a lot of business books, and none come close to hitting this hard. Companies forget their customers and drink bureaucratic kool-aid in the pursuit of profits. As I’m starting my own business, I keep coming back to this book to remind me of why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Learned Optimism

This book has exactly three good observations: (1) optimists attribute permanent causes to good events and temporary causes to bad events, (2) optimism is useful when risk is minimal, and (3) optimism is dangerous in risky situations. Learned Optimism would have been an excellent 250-word book.

To Say Nothing of the Dog

Witty, but distractingly British.

Get In Trouble

The Summer People is one of the best short stories I’ve ever encountered. The other stories in this collection are well-written but failed to hit me in the feels – intriguing plot premises and a great literary style wasted on young-adult subject matter.

Slade House

This book is a structural marvel but hollow inside. It gives great pacing with lackluster payoffs.

The Bell Jar

This is a must-read for anybody who wants to learn what it’s like to have a mental breakdown, or love somebody in a dark place. This book was well-written but too painfully familiar. This book made me sad without being charming or teaching me anything new. It stole from me and gave me nothing in return, but I imagine it has much to give others.

The Fall of Hyperion

This book seemed to have a lot to say. It wanted to be philosophical, it wanted to be adventurous, it wanted to be suspenseful, it wanted to be mysterious, and it wanted to be thought-provoking. But in my opinion, it didn’t do a great job at anything in particular. Or maybe its brilliance was wasted on me.

The Anthropocene Reviewed

Painfully human essays; five stars.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Witty and deeply personal essay collection. Great insights on parenting, grief, pets, language, and addiction.

Zero to One

Solid book on the how & why of founding a startup.

Artemis

This book is a well-researched sci-fi MacGyver adventure story. It’s got great characters and a fast plot. Solid book.

Hyperion

Hyperion is unusually refreshing sci-fi. It’s 6-8 interconnected short stories with drama, horror, mystery, and awe. Some sections didn’t age well, but the writing is incredible in some parts, and some of its ideas are downright brilliant.

The War of Art

If you need inspiration or a swift kick-in-the-butt, read this book. Since reading, I’ve been unable to make my usual excuses that divert me from my art and career and health. For me, every page contained a mixture of timeless wisdom and awful advice. This book is overall charming and pragmatic.

God’s Debris

From few axioms, God’s Debris forms a surprisingly coherent religion, philosophy of science, and practical life advice; a worthwhile ~90-minute read.

Interview with the Vampire

Imagine The Count of Monte Cristo meets Faust meets Twilight – it’s an epic tale with deep philosophical underpinnings… and vampires! This book is worth reading if you want to dramatically ponder death, love, and evil.

Norwegian Wood

This book should be labeled with an extreme trigger warning. It covers death and sex and more death and more sex and a whole lot of depression. Imagine blending together Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Scott Pilgrim, and a smut novel. I think I learned a lot about selfishness and happiness from this experience. I wish I read this when I was 19.

The Way of Kings

If Sanderson’s Mistborn is The Chronicles of Narnia, then The Stormlight Archives is The Lord of the Rings. It’s magical, political, and finely crafted. Brandon Sanderson knows how to write payoffs. This book alone contains 383,000 words, so clear your schedule before reading.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Much of The Handmaid’s Tale is surely beyond my comprehension, but it provided a sobering glimpse into some of the unfairnesses of nature and society. Atwood’s general take on United States fundamentalism is outstanding. The book is riveting throughout, but its ending secures it a “modern masterpiece”.

Animal Farm

Animal Farm delightfully illustrates how authoritarian regimes usurp control. Although the book seemed to be specifically a critique of Stalin’s Russia, there are gems to glean about perverse institutional incentives.

The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1)

This was my first Terry Pratchett book. Oh boy, what a delight! If you like clever authors like Raymond Smullyan and Douglas Adams, you’ll adore his writing. The Colour of Magic covers some surprisingly deep ideas about science and religion wearing a witty grin.

The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day is a subtle story from the perspective of a charming butler. I highly recommend this book if you’re in a wistful mood or receptive to deep introspection.

The Stranger

This book is very highly acclaimed. After reading it, I thought I missed something, so I read a few critical analyses – nope, I understood it perfectly. The Stranger has a decent plot with great writing. This book was probably ground-breaking in 1942, but existentialism has been beaten to death since then. On my end, this is probably a case of “Seinfeld is unfunny”.

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis is potent. It’s witty, horrific, deep, and bizarre – an unforgettable experience.

Discipline is Destiny

This book was inspiring but forgettable. All the examples of disciplined people got me pumped, but I didn’t find much actionable content.

Ubik

Good sci-fi stories explore “cool ideas”. Ubik miraculously interleaves 3-5 “cool ideas”. And it keeps topping itself with bigger and bigger extensions of its core “cool ideas”. Read Ubik if you like “cool ideas”.

Triggers

This is a self-help book that delivers. It’s an incredibly useful guide on how to enact lasting change in yourself. This book focuses on growth via environmental cues. I particularly liked the concrete advice on daily active questions, accountability partners, and actionable ways to change cognitive contexts.

Book of the New Sun

These books are extremely subversive, yet the author falls prey to the exact tropes he’s “subverting”. The plot oscillates between mind-bending self-reference and painful self-awarelessness. Some of the twists are incredible. I suspect that this is an excellent book that aged poorly.

Solaris

A sci-fi book that gave me literal nightmares. It’s unsettling and thought-provoking.

The Good Earth

A heartbreaking rags-to-riches-to-rags story about wealth, family, work, fairness, kindness, and land. It’s easy to see why a book about rural Chinese peasants was the best-selling book in the US during The Dust Bowl and The Great Depression. This book will inspire or haunt you.